I grew up in St. Mary’s Park Houses in the South Bronx section of New York City. Yes, the PROJECTS!!!!!! The theme song from Good Times had many phrases that seemed to capture my existence. “Just lookin’ out of the window, watchin’ the asphalt grow. Thinkin’ how it all looks hand-me-down.” Although we lived in the projects, the projects did not live in us! Don’t get me wrong, we were not better than anyone else who lived in our neighborhood. We were all in the same predicament. So why did some of us have different outcomes? EDUCATION!
For me education was the key that opened the door to escape the ghetto of the South Bronx. But what is education? We all went to elementary school and high school. We all received diplomas (well, the majority of us did!). So what does education mean? Where does it begin? When does it end?
To me education is a wholistic system that begins at birth and ends at death. Education takes place EVERYWHERE. You can choose to learn or choose to ignore. Growing up, we were pushed to learn. The ABC Watts (Anita, Brian and Cornell) were in learning mode most of the time. When we watched the ABC After School Specials (remember those?), my mom would make us have a discussion after. We hated that, but it helped to develop our comprehension and verbal expression. My mother made sure we were in the library reading books whether we had an assignment from school or not. My mom had me adding up the prices of the groceries in the supermarket everytime she went shopping. My dad made me stay awake everytime he drove me somewhere and told me the names of every highway so I would know how to drive to certain places(even though he never let me drive!). My parents had us watching shows about places they could never take us. We had aspirations of making enough money to travel and experience things that were clearly out of our reach. At election time, we watched the debates and, at early ages, picked the candidate that made the most since to us. We learned to make decisions even though they didn’t count then. This was true education that, when coupled with our school education, made us ready for the world.
I know that some of you can “feel me” because you had a parent or parents like mine. But even if you didn’t, it is not too late to accept the choices to be educated. Every decision you make and every experience you have should educate you. If you fail a class, you should be educated on what to do or not do the next time. If your relationship fails, you should be able to recognize the qualities that were not compatible and how you can better respect an individual and/or be respected by an individual. Use everything as an educational experience…good and bad! This is not just the key to success, it will also keep you from repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
Do you agree? Let me know what you think?